BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Audi A5 review (2011 onwards)
What - Audi A5
Where - Jerez, Spain
Date - September 2011
Price - £26,490-£48,895 (on the road)
Available - Now
Key rivals - BMW 3 Series Coupé, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé, Infiniti G Series Coupé
Gallery: Audi A5 (2011 onwards)
Read more Audi car reviews
We like - Refinement, performance, economy, stylish design
We don't like - Patchy ride quality, dull handling
Summary - The latest A5 builds on the cornerstones of Audi's recent success while adding significant engine improvements and yet more advanced technology. Efforts to sharpen the driving experience have fallen short though.
It feels like we can know a lot about a new Audi product before we even clap eyes on it. This is a car brand with confidence reserves bulging on the back of similar expansion in its model range and sales levels over the last decade or so. That this A5 compact executive coupé isn't even a new car but a facelifted version makes it more predictable still.
The inevitability with a new, or revised, Audi is that it will hold true to the blueprint that has fired the firm's success. Crisply modern lines will shape an exterior sprinkled with brand Audi design hallmarks, the interior will exude new-school class and the underlying tech will be sharp enough to shave with.
Audi doesn't need an audacious change of direction: in the first six months of 2011 it outsold BMW in Europe by 20,000 units, shoving Mercedes-Benz into a distant third place.
It all means this revised Audi A5 isn't much of a shock. The brilliant white running lights weave through the headlight clusters more elaborately, the grille is reshaped and new details appear inside. There are technology tweaks to the navigation (it now has full postcode entry) and adaptive cruise control systems too.
Of more telling impact will be the new electromechanical power steering system, the latest development of quattro all-wheel-drive and suspension upgrades that also aim to finesse the area where the supposedly sporty A5 has been criticised most - driver involvement.
There's a lot of new stuff but top billing should be reserved for what's beneath the bonnet. Here the A5 Coupé, Sportback and Cabriolet have really upped the ante. Efficiency is up across the range despite power and torque going the same way in most instances. Start/Stop is now present on all models too.
Every A5 engine now has direct fuel injection and they're all turbocharged except the 3.0-litre V6 TFSI, which has a supercharger. Audi's forced induction love-in pays off as well. From the entry level 1.8 TFSI petrol (168hp) to the top 3.0 TDI diesel (242hp) and the 3.0 TFSI (328hp in the S5), refinement and smoothness impress.
The 1.8 TFSI is a willing opener that's rarely overawed by the A5's mass. The diesel rumble on the tax-dodging 2.0 TDI is so well suppressed that you can hear the turbo breathing, and the 3.0 TDI quattro devours fast flowing roads where you can lean on its prodigious traction and torque.
As for the S5, it sounds fantastic, apparently with a different version of its high pitched howl for every occasion. The thrilling soundtrack is punctuated by assorted rev-matching blips from the standard S tronic double clutch gearbox. If anything, the actual performance doesn't pin you in your seat in the way the noise tells you it should but rest assured, it's quick. The 0-62mph sprint is all done in 4.9s.
Ride and handling
The electromechanical steering that's now fitted to all A5s is designed to bring greater precision as well as efficiency savings. There are also revisions to the dampers, springs and suspension bearings intended to sharpen up the A5's act. In the end, they don't quite do enough. The A5 changes direction smartly and feels composed but the agility and interaction with the driver aren't quite there.
The four-cylinder front-wheel-drive models are sweeter handlers than their powerful six-cylinder counterparts, which tend to telegraph the extra weight they're carrying up front. The quattro 4x4 system that's either standard or available as an option on the quicker A5s gains torque vectoring and the crown centre differential debuted on the RS5. It helps make the 3.0-litre cars even more rapid point-to-point machines but doesn't do a huge amount to install a grin on your face.
The ride quality is generally good. Audi's optional Drive Select system can adjust the dampers and other settings according to your choice between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency modes. Dynamic mode is jittery on lumpy surfaces, particularly in the Cabriolet, and there's some float over undulations with the softer settings but the A5 is a comfortable car compared to its rivals.
The A5 range consists of Coupé, Sportback and Cabriolet bodystyles with the five-door Sportback yielding the most practicality. It's got adequate rear legroom for adults and a generous boot. The Coupé is just about acceptable for back seat passengers and the Cabriolet's rear bench is best reserved for kids.
The cabin design follows the usual Audi method, finessed in all kinds of small ways on this latest A5. No rival does cool, quality and clarity of design quite as well as Audi does inside its cars and the latest A5 shows off the brand's strength in this area. The sat-nav has grown even more advanced with this facelift but like the other minor systems it manages to stay straightforward and intuitive to use. The number of buttons has actually been cut.
Economy and safety
Audi has made real headway on the emissions and economy front. Highlights include the 1.8 TFSI petrol engine (49.6mpg and 134g/km) and the 2.0 TDI diesel (60.1mpg and 122g/km). A wide range of advanced safety features is also offered that will warn you if there's a car in your blind spot, you're drifting out of your lane or you're getting tired. An emergency braking function will even decelerate the car if it detects an imminent collision.
Anyone who hadn't inspected the sleek lines of the A5 before they climbed inside probably wouldn't finger the car as a sporty coupé. It's very capable, fiendishly grippy with quattro 4x4 underneath and fast with the right engine installed, but it doesn't have the driving flair of a BMW 3 Series equivalent.
Many people won't care though. They'll be sold on the smart styling, the well-judged cabin, the refinement and the performance Audi has managed to wring from the latest crop of engines. The formula that's done the business for Audi up to now looks like it will keep delivering, even if the keenest drivers continue to be tempted elsewhere.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.8 TFSI, 2.0 TFSI, 3.0TFSI (268hp or 328hp)|
|Engines, diesel||2.0 TDI, 3.0 TDI (201hp or 242hp)|
|Power, hp||168 - 328|
|Torque, lb ft||236 - 369|
|0-62 mph, secs||8.2 - 4.9|
|Top speed, mph||143 - 155|
|Mpg combined||60.1 - 34.9|
|CO2 g/km / tax||122 - 250 / 18 - 35%|
|Ratings||Audi A5 1.8 TFSI SE Coupe|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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